Our Topography is Peppered With Thorns

Indecision copy (1)
Illustration by Olivia Stephens

On our first date we went to a poetry slam at night, with beer, it was properly romantic, we held hands and a staggering emcee asked us if it was in fact, our first date. She had a tequila accent and said “be nice to each other.” I was not shy but determined already to stand against you in everything; not to be antagonistic but simply to make sure our relationship had the firm pressure of bodies when they are pressed hard and close upon each other. So it made sense that I had been the one to ask you out—I wanted to be the tipping point for everything so that I would always be a step ahead, a swirling catalyst that poured itself upon your dark smooth skin and turned out all my desires and dreams. It was me who suggested this place for a date, because I knew you didn’t like poetry, or crowds, thought it was all a waste of time and far too unreasonable. I made you love me by making you uncomfortable. I always have. We were chosen to be joint judges. I held the card with the whole numbers, you had the decimal points. After each poet finished on the stage you urged me to decide upon my score. Your elbows dug into my side intently in the small space, insisting I choose more quickly, telling me I am too slow and this is a fast game. I didn’t think of it as a fast game or as a game of any sort, and told you that I was going to take as long as I wanted, this realm, this place belonged to me and this might have been my last push against you, except that night we had sex, and I felt you upon me like a bizarre second skin I was trying to crawl out of. “If I have an orgasm I might run away,” I say. You are full of the stumbling music of desire. In the drunken darkness your face looks kind, and I am the wave breaking upon the beach.

A year later you reluctantly admit the relationship between poetry and greatness of soul, and I feel a languorous satiation, the curious validation in the form of a pleasure which came on so slowly, it could only be likened to a dull ache. Last night you said I was a wildcard, which sounded good but I knew better than to take it that way. I know you do not mean that I have the fierce grace of a cat or the sharp mystique of a waning moon. I no longer feel wild, like a tree pushing against the wind. I no longer trace my stories on my skin but say them aloud with the numb tongue of a stranger. I do not run with the waves. Now you laugh when I want to make love and jeer when I want to fuck, fleet of foot and sharp tongue as antelope you seem to flee into the brush where I cannot find you or coax your body towards mine with any words. You casually tell me that perhaps I am too weak and soft to be with you, but I have already carved my place against you like wind eroding a mountainside, and now I don’t know to put it back. You can’t grasp the wind, I should say, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t strong. But instead I don’t say anything.

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